Nokia deploys private LTE for Polish power grid operator

The final private LTE network could support wireless connectivity for up to 14 million smart meters. (Getty Images)

Polish power grid operator PGE Systemy is using Nokia to deploy a private LTE proof-of-concept (PoC) network in the 450 MHz band as it works to develop a country-wide critical communications network for the energy sector.

This follows the successful trial of a 450 MHz PoC network that’s been operating since April 2019.  

Nokia called its 5G-ready PoC private network “the first big step” toward digitalization of critical communications in the Polish energy industry and a key move in assessing the 450 MHz band to support wide-area operations of electrical grid operators across Poland.

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Countries across Europe are tapping the 450 MHz band for smart grid applications. According to Nokia, the band has favorable propagation characteristics, generous power levels, as well as an ecosystem of voice and data radios to support a variety of applications.

“Poland has a strong concern to digitalize our energy grid because further integration of Renewables with grid as well as conversion to distributed energy systems requires ubiquitous, reliable and safe communications,” said PGE Systemy VP Andrzej Piotrowski in a statement. “Private wireless operating in the 450 MHz range is the communications technology of choice for the energy sector right across Europe, which ensures support from industry suppliers.”

The 450 MHz band is favored for machine-to machine communications for the energy sector, supporting connections for smart meters and required wireless SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) connections, such as wind turbines, the vendor noted.

Nokia cited digital smart grid applications like distributed energy resource management as potential future applications supported by the network.

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Once completed, the final private LTE network could support 15,000-20,000 private radio users, wireless connections for up to 14 million smart meters and 35,000 current and future SCADA connections. An exact date for the final private network has not been specified, but PGE hopes to start operations on a larger scale by the end of 2020, according to a Nokia spokesperson, who noted that will require a separate tender procedure. 

Piotrowski in his statement said Nokia’s proof of concept proved that it can meet the power grid operator’s needs for coverage, service quality, resilience, and long-term availability.

“Nokia has a big commitment to Poland’s communications infrastructure with over 6,000 employees in country working in our R&D centers, developing our newest technologies, including 4.9G and 5G,” said Chris Johnson, VP of Nokia’s Enterprise business, in a statement. “Nokia’s proof of concept, 5G-ready private network has ably demonstrated the superiority of cellular systems for mission-critical and machine-to-machine communications in these advanced applications.”

Nokia has deployed more than 1,300 mission critical networks around the globe and has also focused on private wireless efforts. The vendor now counts 150 large enterprise customers deploying private wireless networks worldwide.

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Last month, for example, Nokia announced a project with Engie Solutions to deploy an industrial grade private LTE network for new automated lines of the Grand Paris Express. The project covers 200 kilometers of new lines, 68 new metro stations, and all trains running on Paris metro lines 15,16, and 17 routes.

Karl Bream, Nokia’s VP of strategy and alliances for the vendor’s Enterprise business, previously told FierceWireless that private wireless for industries boils down to predictability. He said that in industrial settings that require voice or data, customers are looking for consistent reliability and low latency, which can be delivered on a predictable basis via LTE and 5G.

Updated to include comment from Nokia about timeline for final private network. 

Correction: The first line in this story was updated to clarify that at this stage PGE is deploying a proof of concept network vs a full deployment.